You're not imagining things, the top of your Facebook Timeline may look a little different today. That's because Facebook is rolling out Graph Search beta to the masses. This new universal search bar greets you with the inviting phrase "Search for People, Places and Things," and that's exactly what it allows you to do. The social network has mined the data your friends and friends of friends have shared with them and made it easy for you to search that data for all sorts of stuff.
If you prefer to stay off the grid of searchable materials by your friends and friends of friends, you'll want to start by limiting what you include in your profile. And you may want to tweak a few privacy settings. Beyond that, however, some searches can yield actual, helpful results. Here are five things you can do with Graph Search Beta.
1. Try Suggested Searches
Before you can begin any search, you must click on the search bar at the top of the page. This will open a drop down menu suggesting some searches you may find interesting. For example, it may suggest you find music your friends like or restaurants nearby.
2. Meet New People
Find new friends by searching for terms such as "My friends of friends that are single" or "Friends of friends that live in New York, NY." This search will autofill with even more specific options, based on what Facebook knows about your history. In our case, being from Wichita, Kansas and living in New York City both played into Facebook's suggestions.
3. Research Your Next Vacation
Want to know what your travel destination looks like? By searching for "Photos taken in [location]" where [location] is the destination (ex: San Francisco), you get a graphic layout of images taken by friends or friends of friends that you can like or comment on by clicking.
You can also be more specific about the photos you're looking for by hovering over the box on the top right that says Refine This Search. A pop-up appears that allows you to further customize the photos based on who is in them, when they were uploaded, who may have commented or liked them, and who took them.
Similarly, searching for restaurant, hotel, tourist traps in various cities where your friends have visited or lived is just as easy and performing a search such as "Chinese restaurants in Florida liked by my friends.
4. Discover new Music, Games, Books, Movies or Shows
Bored with your current collection of media? Searching "Movies my friends like" or "Music my friends like" will bring up various suggestions. To get good results, your friends will need to have filled out those sections of their profile. You can narrow this search even further by altering the search string a little, to, say, "movies liked by people who like The Godfather" or "music liked by people who like Monster Trucks."
5. Find a New Doctor or Dentist
It's difficult to find a physician you can really trust. Fortunately you can get advice from your social circle by simply searching "Dentist offices liked by my friends" or "Doctors liked by my friends." This can be extremely helpful if you're new to town or looking to change health care provider.
It's worth noting that not all searches have been used for good, since the roll-out began. In fact, a Tumblr blog was quickly started for "Actual Facebook Graph Searches," where people started putting strange search strings together such as "Current employers of people who like racism." But that doesn't mean it is a tool for evil, if you know what you're doing.